President’s Day!

18 02 2008

Yay! President’s Day is here! Hail to the Chief, we have chosen for the nation! Hail to the Chief, we salute him one and all! Hail to the one we have selected as commander! Hail to the President, Hail to the Chief!

Okay, I know I’m going to receive a bit of criticism for this last President. Many of us have made fun of him, and for some good reasons. Like saying the word “Nucular”. And pretending to read a book, following along with some schoolkids, but the book was upside down. Okay, so maybe in some ways he’s a puppet. But at least he’s backed with a ‘balls to the walls’ VP (who, incidently, needs more target practice in my opinion…)

That’s right! Our 43rd President, George W. Bush! Can we call him Walker, Texas Ranger?  Oh yeah.  Don’t want to insult the Rangers….  One annoying point I have to point out about the previous administration, was that the night before the staff switch, some funny employees removed all the W’s from the keyboards…. Heh heh heh. Uhhh, Beavis? Oh, I almost forgot. Once again, today’s post is sponsored by Wikipedia.

President George W. Bush

George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is the forty-third and current President of the United States of America. He previously served as the forty-sixth Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000 and is the eldest son of former United States President George Herbert Walker Bush. He was inaugurated as President on January 20, 2001 and his current term is scheduled to end on January 20, 2009. He was a 2001 Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

After graduating from college, Bush worked in his family‘s oil businesses. In 1978, he made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. House of Representatives. He later co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team before returning to politics in a campaign for Governor of Texas. He defeated Ann Richards and was elected Governor of Texas in 1994. Bush was elected to the Presidency in 2000 as the Republican candidate in a close and controversial contest, in which he lost the nationwide popular vote, but won the electoral vote.

As president, Bush signed into law a $1.35 trillion tax cut program in 2001, and in 2002 the No Child Left Behind Act. In October 2001, after the attacks on September 11, 2001, Bush announced a global War on Terrorism and ordered an invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban, destroy Al-Qaeda, and to capture Osama bin Laden. In March 2003, Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, asserting that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction and that the war was necessary for the protection of the United States.

Running in the midst of the Iraq War, Bush was re-elected on November 2, 2004; his presidential campaign against Senator John Kerry was successful despite controversy over Bush’s execution of the Iraq War and domestic issues. After his re-election, Bush received increasingly heated criticism. He has the distinction of having some of the highest and lowest approval ratings of any president in history during his term. His domestic approval rating has ranged from 90 percent (the highest ever recorded by The Gallup Organization) immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks to a low of 24 percent, the highest level of disfavor for any sitting president since Richard Nixon. [Gee, I wonder why?]

Economic policy

Facing opposition in Congress, Bush held town hall-style public meetings across the U.S. in 2001 to increase public support for his plan for a US$1.35 trillion tax cut program — one of the largest tax cuts in U.S. history. Bush and his economic advisers argued that unspent government funds should be returned to taxpayers. With reports of the threat of recession from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Bush argued that such a tax cut would stimulate the economy and create jobs. Others, including the Treasury Secretary at the time Paul O’Neill, were opposed to some of the tax cuts on the basis that they would contribute to budget deficits and undermine Social Security.

Under the Bush Administration, Real GDP has grown at an average annual rate of 2.5 percent, considerably below the average for business cycles from 1949 to 2000.[57][58] The Dow Jones Industrial Average has grown by about 30 percent since January 2001. Unemployment rose from 4.2 percent in January 2001 to 6.3 percent in June 2003, dropping to 4.5 percent as of July 2007. The on-budget deficit for 2006 was US$434 billion, a change from an US$86 billion surplus in 2000.Inflation-adjusted median household income has been flat while the nation’s poverty rate has increased. By August 23, 2007, the national debt had officially risen to US$8.98 trillion dollars; the national debt has increased US$3.25 trillion dollars since Bush took office.

While some argue that the Bush-era economy has mostly benefited the wealthy and not the majority of middle and lower-class citizens, and still others have claimed the exact opposite; information available suggests that the standard of living has increased on all rungs of the socio-economic strata — with the bulk of income gains having gone to the top 1 percent, whose share of income has increased substantially.

Another significant part of the Bush economic plan was the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.

Education and health

Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act into law.

Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act into law.

The No Child Left Behind Act aimed to measure and close the gap between rich and poor student performance, provide options to parents with students in low-performing schools, and target more federal funding to low-income schools. Critics argue that Bush has underfunded his own program, and Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy has claimed: “The tragedy is that these long-overdue reforms are finally in place, but the funds are not.”[71] Many educational experts have criticized these reforms, contending that NCLBA’s focus on “high stakes testing” and quantitative outcomes is counterproductive.[72][73] Bush increased funding for the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health in his first years of office, and created education programs to strengthen the grounding in science and mathematics for American high school students. However, funding for NIH failed to keep up with inflation in 2004 and 2005, and was actually cut in 2006, the first such cut in 36 years.

In 2007, Bush opposed and vetoed State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation which was tied by the Democrats onto a war funding bill and passed by Congress. The SCHIP legislation would have significantly expanded federally-funded health care benefits and plans to children of some low-income families from about 6 million to 10 million children. It was to be funded by an increase in the cigarette tax.[75] Bush viewed the legislation as a move toward the liberal platform of socialized health care, and claimed that the program could benefit families making as much as US$83,000 per year who would not have otherwise needed the help.[76]

Social services and Social Security

Bush promoted increased deregulation and investment options in social services, leading Republican efforts to pass the Medicare Act of 2003, which added prescription drug coverage to Medicare and created Health Savings Accounts, which would permit people to set aside a portion of their Medicare tax to build a “nest egg”. The retired persons lobby group AARP worked with the Bush Administration on the program and gave their endorsement. Bush said the law, estimated to cost US$400 billion over the first 10 years, would give the elderly “better choices and more control over their health care”.[77]

Bush began his second term by outlining a major initiative to reform Social Security, which was facing record deficit projections beginning in 2005. Bush made it the centerpiece of his agenda despite contrary beliefs in the media and in the U.S. Congress, which saw the program as the “third rail of politics,” with the American public being suspicious of any attempt to change it. It was also widely believed to be the province of the Democratic Party, with Republicans in the past having been accused of efforts to dismantle or privatize it. In his 2005 State of the Union address, Bush discussed the allegedly impending bankruptcy of the program and attacked political inertia against reform. He proposed options to permit Americans to divert a portion of their Social Security tax (FICA) into secured investments, creating a “nest egg” that he claimed would enjoy steady growth. Despite emphasizing safeguards and remaining open to other plans, Bush’s proposal was criticized for its high cost, and Democrats attacked it as an effort to partially privatize the system, and for leaving Americans open to the whims of the market. Bush embarked on a 60-day national tour, campaigning vigorously for his initiative in media events (“Conversations on Social Security”) in a largely unsuccessful attempt to gain support from the general public.[78] Despite energetic campaign by Bush to promote his Social Security reform plan, by May 2005 the public support for the Bush proposal declined substantially[79] and the House GOP leadership decided not to put Social Security reform on the priority list for the remainder of their 2005 legislative agenda.[80] The proposal’s legislative prospects were further diminished by the political fallout from the Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005.[81] In the run-up to the 2006 congressional elections, the Republican leadership in Congress put the hot-button issue of the Social Security reform on the back burner. No substantive legislative action was taken on this issue in 2006. After the Democrats took over control of both houses of Congress as a result of the 2006 mid-term elections, the prospects of any further congressional action on the Bush proposal appeared to be dead for the remainder of his term in office.

Environmental policy and global warming

Upon arriving in office in 2001, Bush did not support the Kyoto Protocol, an amendment to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change which seeks to impose mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Bush partially based this decision on the fact that the Senate had voted 95–0 in 1997 on a resolution expressing its disapproval of the protocol. Bush asserted he would not support it because the treaty exempted 80 percent of the world’s population[82] and would have cost the economy tens of billions of dollars per year,[83] and was based on the uncertain science of climate change.[84] The Bush Administration’s stance on global warming has remained controversial in the scientific and environmental communities during his presidency.

In 2004, the Director of NASA‘s Goddard Institute, James Hansen, publicly and harshly accused the Administration of misinforming the public by suppressing the scientific evidence of the dangers of greenhouse gases, saying the Bush Administration wanted to hear only scientific results that “fit predetermined, inflexible positions” and edited reports to make the dangers sound less threatening in what he asserted was “direct opposition to the most fundamental precepts of science.”[85][86] Other experts, such as former United States Department of Energy official Joseph Romm, have decried the Bush administration as a “denier and delayer” of government action essential to reduce carbon emissions and deter global warming.[87] Bush had said that he has consistently noted that global warming is a serious problem, but asserted there is a “debate over whether it’s manmade or naturally caused”.[88] In his 2007 State of the Union Address, Bush renewed his pledge to work toward diminished reliance on foreign oil by reducing fossil fuel consumption and increasing alternative fuel production.[89]

In 2002, Bush announced the Clear Skies Initiative,[90] aimed at amending the Clean Air Act to reduce air pollution through the use of emissions trading programs. Critics contended that it would have weakened the original legislation by allowing higher levels of pollutants than were permitted at that time.[91] The initiative was introduced to Congress, but failed to make it out of committee.

In 2006 Bush declared the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands a national monument, creating the largest marine reserve to date. The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument comprises 84 million acres (340,000 km²) and is home to 7,000 species of fish, birds and other marine animals, many of which are specific to only those islands.[92] The move was hailed by conservationists for “its foresight and leadership in protecting this incredible area.”[93]

During his 2008 State of the Union Address Bush announce that the U.S. would commit US$2 billion over the next three years towards a new international fund to promote clean energy technologies and fight climate change. He declared that; “along with contributions from other countries, this fund will increase and accelerate the deployment of all forms of cleaner, more efficient technologies in developing nations like India and China, and help leverage substantial private-sector capital by making clean energy projects more financially attractive.”

During the speech, Bush announced plans to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to work with major economies and through the United Nations to complete an international agreement that will slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases. He stated that; “this agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride.” [94]

Okay, without getting into my own political views, of which there are many, I will give Bush credit for the good work he is doing at his ranch. While many of our political powerhouses hail from large families with lots of moola, most live in expansive estates that cost thousands of dollars every month to maintain. Bush really has a good thing going on his ranch in Texas. Solar power put to good use, I hear he even has a wind turbine for extra power, they make good use of just about everything on the ranch too. Scraps are turned into compost, which is then used for fertilizer and food for cattle. Even the cow patties are used for fertilizer in the veggie garden. Bush has made many, many, many, many mistakes in office, but at least in his personal life he’s trying to make a difference. Just a good ‘ol boy trying to make a difference.






President #36

17 02 2008

Once again, short on time. This is a President that deserves some special recognition as he kept the country together after JFK’s death. Once a VP, this President took over after the most popular President ever elected was assassinated.

President Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908January 22, 1973), often referred to as LBJ, was the thirty-sixth President of the United States from 1963 to 1969. Johnson served a long career in both houses of the U.S. Congress, and in 1960 he was selected by then-Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy to be his running-mate. After Kennedy won the 1960 presidential election, Johnson became the thirty-seventh Vice President, and in 1963, he succeeded to the role of presidency following Kennedy’s assassination. He was a major leader of the Democratic Party and as President was responsible for designing the Great Society, comprising liberal legislation including civil rights laws, Medicare (health care for the elderly), Medicaid (health care for the poor), aid to education, and a “War on Poverty.” Simultaneously, he escalated the American involvement in the Vietnam War, from 16,000 American soldiers in 1963 to 550,000 in early 1968.

He was elected President in his own right in a landslide victory in 1964, but his popularity steadily declined after 1966 and his reelection bid in 1968 collapsed as a result of turmoil in his party. He withdrew from the race to concentrate on peacemaking. Johnson was renowned for his domineering (or dominating) personality and the “Johnson treatment,” his arm-twisting of powerful politicians.

Johnson died after a heart attack, the third in his lifetime, on January 22, 1973.

War record

After America entered the war in December 1941, Johnson, still in Congress, became a commissioned officer in the Navy Reserves, then asked Undersecretary of the Navy James Forrestal for a combat assignment. Instead he was sent to inspect the shipyard facilities in Texas and on the West Coast. In the spring of 1942, President Roosevelt needed his own reports on what conditions were like in the Southwest Pacific. Roosevelt felt information that flowed up the military chain of command needed to be supplemented by a highly trusted political aide. From a suggestion by Forrestal, President Roosevelt assigned Johnson to a three-man survey team of the Southwest Pacific.

Johnson reported to General Douglas MacArthur in Australia. Johnson and two Army officers went to the 22nd Bomb Group base, which was assigned the high risk mission of bombing the Japanese airbase at Lae in New Guinea. A colonel took Johnson’s original seat on one bomber; it was shot down and everyone died. Reports vary on what happened to the B-26 Marauder carrying Johnson. Some accounts say it was also attacked by Japanese fighters but survived, while others claim it turned back before reaching the objective and never came under fire. MacArthur awarded LBJ the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest medal, for his actions.

Johnson reported back to Roosevelt, to the Navy leaders, and to Congress, that conditions were deplorable and unacceptable. He argued the South West Pacific urgently needed a higher priority and a bigger share of war supplies. The warplanes sent there, for example, were “far inferior” to Japanese planes, and morale was bad. He told Forrestal that the Pacific Fleet had a “critical” need for 6,800 additional experienced men. Johnson prepared a twelve-point program to upgrade the effort in the region, stressing “greater cooperation and coordination within the various commands and between the different war theaters.” Congress responded by making Johnson chairman of a high-powered subcommittee of the Naval Affairs committee. With a mission similar to that of the Truman Committee in the Senate, he probed into the peacetime “business as usual” inefficiencies that permeated the naval war and demanded that admirals shape up and get the job done. However, Johnson went too far when he proposed a bill that would crack down on the draft exemptions of shipyard workers if they were too often absent. Organized labor blocked the bill and denounced Johnson. Johnson’s mission thus had a significant impact in upgrading the South Pacific theater and in helping along the entire naval war effort. Johnson’s biographer concludes, “The mission was a temporary exposure to danger calculated to satisfy Johnson’s personal and political wishes, but it also represented a genuine effort on his part, however misplaced, to improve the lot of America’s fighting men.”

1948 contested election

In 1948, Johnson again ran for the Senate and won. This election was highly controversial: a three-way Democratic Party primary saw Johnson facing a well-known former governor, Coke Stevenson, and a third candidate. Johnson drew crowds to fairgrounds with his rented helicopter dubbed “The Flying Windmill”. He raised money to flood the state with campaign circulars, and won over conservatives by voting for the Taft-Hartley act curbing unions and by criticizing unions on the stump. Stevenson came in first, but lacked a majority, so a runoff was held. Johnson campaigned even harder, while Stevenson’s efforts were poor. The runoff count took a week as the two candidates see-sawed for the lead. The Democratic State Central Committee handled the count (not the state, because it was a party primary), and it finally announced Johnson won by eighty-seven votes. The committee voted 29-28 to certify Johnson’s nomination, with the last vote cast on Johnson’s behalf by the Temple publisher Frank W. Mayborn, who rushed back to Texas from a business trip in Nashville, Tennessee. There were many allegations of fraud on both sides. Thus one writer alleges that Johnson’s campaign manager, John B. Connally, was connected with 202 ballots in Precinct 13 in Jim Wells County that had curiously been cast in alphabetical order. Robert Caro argued in his 1989 book that Johnson had rigged the election in Jim Wells County, and other counties in South Texas, as well as rigging 10,000 ballots in Bexar County alone.

However, the state Democratic convention upheld Johnson. Stevenson went to court, but — with timely help from his friend Abe Fortas — Johnson prevailed. Johnson was elected senator in November, and went to Washington, D.C. tagged with the label “Landslide Lyndon,” which he often used deprecatingly to refer to him.

Vice Presidency

Johnson’s success in the Senate made him a possible Democratic presidential candidate. He was Texas’ “favorite son” candidate at the party’s national convention in 1956. In 1960, Johnson received 409 votes on the first and only ballot at the Democratic convention, which nominated John F. Kennedy. The possibility that Lyndon Johnson, who for nearly twenty-four years had been a member of congress, might someday become president of the United States increased when he took the oath as vice president on January 20, 1961 (Vaughn Davis Bornet, The Presidency of LBJ, p. 1).

Tip O’Neill, then a representative from Kennedy’s home state of Massachusetts, recalled that Johnson approached him at the convention and said, “Tip, I’d like to have you with me on the second ballot.” O’Neill, understanding the influence of the Kennedy name, replied, “Senator, there’s not going to be any second ballot.”

During the convention, Kennedy designated Johnson as his choice for Vice President. Some later reports (such as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.‘s) say that Kennedy offered the position to Johnson as a courtesy and did not expect him to accept. Others (such as W. Marvin Watson) say that the Kennedy campaign was desperate to win the 1960 election against Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., and needed Johnson on the ticket to help carry Southern states.

While he ran for vice president with John F. Kennedy, Johnson also sought a third term in the U.S. Senate. His popularity was such that Texas law was changed to permit him to run for two offices at the same time. Johnson was reelected senator, with 1,306,605 votes (58 percent) to Republican John Tower‘s 927,653 (41.1 percent). Fellow Democrat William A. Blakley was appointed to replace Johnson as Senator, but Blakley lost a special election in May 1961 to Tower. In 1988, Lloyd Bentsen, the Vice Presidential running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, and also a Senator from Texas, also took advantage of “Lyndon’s law,” and was able to retain his seat in Senate despite Dukakis’ loss to George H. W. Bush.

After the election, Johnson found himself powerless. Despite Kennedy’s efforts to have Johnson busy, informed and at the White House often, his advisors and even some of his family were dismissive to the Texan. Kennedy appointed him to nominal jobs such as head of the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities, through which he worked with African Americans and other minorities. Though Kennedy probably intended this to remain a nominal position, Taylor Branch in Pillar of Fire contends that Johnson served to force the Kennedy administration’s actions for civil rights further and faster than Kennedy intended to go. Branch notes the irony of Johnson, who the Kennedy family hoped would appeal to conservative southern voters, being the advocate for civil rights. In particular he notes Johnson’s Memorial Day 1963 speech at Gettysburg as being a catalyst that led to much more action than otherwise would have occurred.

Johnson took on numerous minor diplomatic missions, which gave him limited insights into international issues. He was allowed to observe Cabinet and National Security Council meetings. Kennedy did give Johnson control over all presidential appointments involving Texas, and he was appointed chairman of the President’s Ad Hoc Committee for Science. When, in April 1961, the Soviets beat the U.S. with the first manned spaceflight Kennedy tasked Johnson with coming up with a ‘scientific bonanza’ that would prove world leadership. Johnson knew that Project Apollo and an enlarged NASA were feasible, so he steered the recommendation towards a program for landing an American on the moon.

Presidency 1963–1969

Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in aboard Air Force One by Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. To the right of Johnson (from the viewer's point of view) is Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of Kennedy; to his right (our left) is Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson.

Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in aboard Air Force One by Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. To the right of Johnson (from the viewer’s point of view) is Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of Kennedy; to his right (our left) is Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson.
[The Brainiac’s note: Incidently, although you cannot see it in this picture, there are reports that the First Lady was still splattered with JFK’s blood from the shooting. There had not been time for her to change before the swearing-in of LBJ, as she had requested to be present.]

An hour and 39 minutes after President Kennedy was shot two cars in front of him in a Dealey Plaza motorcade, Johnson was sworn in as President on Air Force One in Dallas at Love Field Airport on November 22, 1963. He was sworn in by Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes, a very close friend of his family, making him the first President sworn in by a woman. He is also the only President to have been sworn in on Texas soil. Johnson was not sworn on a Bible, as none could be found aboard Air Force One; a Roman Catholic missal was discovered in Kennedy’s desk, and this book was used during the swearing-in ceremony.

To investigate Kennedy’s murder, Johnson created a special panel called the Warren Commission. This panel, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, conducted hearings about the assassination and concluded that Oswald did indeed shoot the President without conspiring with anyone. Not everyone agreed with the Warren Commission, however, and numerous public and private investigations continued for decades after Johnson left office.

The wave of national grief and soul-searching following the assassination gave enormous momentum to Johnson’s promise to carry out Kennedy’s programs. He retained the senior Kennedy appointees, some for the full term of his presidency. Even the late President’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, with whom Johnson had an infamously-difficult relationship, remained in office until leaving in 1964 to run for the Senate.

1964 Presidential election

In the 1964 election, LBJ often appealed to the memory of JFK in his electoral campaign

In the 1964 election, LBJ often appealed to the memory of JFK in his electoral campaign

On September 7, 1964, Johnson’s campaign managers for the 1964 presidential election broadcast the “Daisy ad.” It portrayed a little girl picking petals from a daisy, counting up to ten. Then a baritone voice took over, counted down from ten to zero and a nuclear bomb exploded. The message was that Barry Goldwater meant nuclear war. Although it was soon pulled off the air, it escalated into a very heated election. Johnson won by a sweeping landslide. Johnson won the presidency with 61 percent of the vote and the then-widest popular margin in the 20th century — more than 15 million votes (this was later surpassed by Nixon’s defeat of McGovern in 1972).

In the summer of 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was organized with the purpose of challenging Mississippi’s all-white and anti-civil rights delegation to the Democratic National Convention of that year as not representative of all Mississippians. At national convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey the MFDP claimed the seats for delegates for Mississippi, not on the grounds of the Party rules, but because the official Mississippi delegation had been elected by a primary conducted under Jim Crow laws in which blacks were excluded because of poll taxes, literacy tests, and even violence against black voters. The national Party’s liberal leaders supported a compromise in which the white delegation and the MFDP would have an even division of the seats; Johnson was concerned that, while the regular Democrats of Mississippi would probably vote for Goldwater anyway, if the Democratic Party rejected the regular Democrats, he would lose the Democratic Party political structure that he needed to win in the South. Eventually, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Reuther and black civil rights leaders (including Roy Wilkins, Martin Luther King, and Bayard Rustin worked out a compromise with MFDP leaders: the MFDP would receive two non-voting seats on the floor of the Convention; the regular Mississippi delegation would be required to pledge to support the party ticket; and no future Democratic convention would accept a delegation chosen by a discriminatory poll. When the leaders took the proposal back to the 64 members who had made the bus trip to Atlantic City, they voted it down. As MFDP Vice Chair Fannie Lou Hamer said, “We didn’t come all the way up here to compromise for no more than we’d gotten here. We didn’t come all this way for no two seats, ’cause all of us is tired.” The failure of the compromise effort allowed the rest of the Democratic Party to conclude that the MFDP was simply being unreasonable, and they lost a great deal of their liberal support. After that, the convention went smoothly for LBJ without a searing battle over civil rights. Johnson carried the South as a whole in the election, but he lost the white voters to Goldwater in the Deep South states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina.

So, some more useless tidbits with history!





President #28

17 02 2008

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday. So today I will be presenting two posts, starting with #28 – Woodrow Wilson. And once again, due to lack of time, I am posting part of Wikipedia’s entry.

President Woodrow Wilson

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856February 3, 1924), was the twenty-eighth President of the United States. A devout Presbyterian and leading “intellectual” of the Progressive Era, he served as president of Princeton University then became the reform governor of New Jersey in 1910. With Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft dividing the Republican vote, Wilson was elected President as a Democrat in 1912. He proved highly successful in leading a Democratic Congress to pass major legislation including the Federal Trade Commission, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Underwood Tariff, the Federal Farm Loan Act and most notably the Federal Reserve System. Wilson was a proponent of Segregation during his presidency.

Narrowly re-elected in 1916, his second term centered on World War I. He tried to maintain U.S. neutrality, but when Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare he wrote several admonishing notes to Germany. Subsequently he asked Congress to declare war on the Central Powers. He focused on diplomacy and financial considerations, leaving the waging of the war primarily in the hands of the military establishment. On the home front he began the first effective draft in 1917, raised billions through Liberty loans, imposed an income tax, set up the War Industries Board, promoted labor union growth, supervised agriculture and food production through the Lever Act, took over control of the railroads, and suppressed anti-war movements. He paid surprisingly little attention to military affairs, but provided the funding and food supplies that helped the Americans in the war and hastened Allied victory in 1918.

In the late stages of the war he took personal control of negotiations with Germany, especially with the Fourteen Points and the Armistice. He went to Paris in 1919 to create the League of Nations and shape the Treaty of Versailles, with special attention on creating new nations out of defunct empires. Largely for his efforts to form the League of Nations, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919. Wilson collapsed with a debilitating stroke in 1919, as the home front saw massive strikes and race riots, and wartime prosperity turn into postwar depression. He refused to compromise with the Republicans who controlled Congress after 1918, effectively destroying any chance for ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. The League of Nations went into operation anyway, but the U.S. never joined. Wilson’s idealistic internationalism, whereby the U.S. enters the world arena to fight for democracy, progressiveness, and liberalism, has been a highly controversial position in American foreign policy, serving as a model for “idealists” to emulate or “realists” to reject for the following century.

Federal Reserve 1913

The Federal Reserve Act was one of the more significant pieces of legislation in the history of the United States. Wilson outmaneuvered bankers and enemies of banks, North and South, Democrats and Republicans to secure passage of the Federal Reserve system in late 1913. He took a plan that had been designed by conservative Republicans—led by Nelson W. Aldrich and banker Paul M. Warburg—and passed it. However, Wilson had to find a middle ground between those who supported the Aldrich Plan and those who opposed it, including the powerful agrarian wing of the party, led by William Jennings Bryan, which strenuously denounced banks and Wall Street. They wanted a government-owned central bank which could print paper money whenever Congress wanted. Wilson’s plan still allowed the large banks to have important influence, but Wilson went beyond the Aldrich plan and created a central board made up of persons appointed by the President and approved by Congress who would outnumber the board members who were bankers. Moreover, Wilson convinced Bryan’s supporters that because Federal Reserve notes were obligations of the government, the plan fit their demands. Wilson’s plan also decentralized the Federal Reserve system into 12 districts. This was designed to weaken the influence of the powerful New York banks, a key demand of Bryan’s allies in the South and West. This decentralization was a key factor in winning the support of Congressman Carter Glass (D-VA) although he objected to making paper currency a federal obligation. Glass was one of the leaders of the currency reformers in the U.S. House and without his support, any plan was doomed to fail. The final plan passed, in December 1913, despite opposition by bankers, who felt it gave too much control to Washington, and by some reformers, who felt it allowed bankers to maintain too much power.

Wilson named Warburg and other prominent bankers to direct the new system. Despite the reformers’ hopes, the New York branch dominated the Fed and thus power remained in Wall Street. The new system began operations in 1915 and played a major role in financing the Allied and American war efforts.

Wilsonian economic views

Wilson’s early views on international affairs and trade were stated in his Columbia University lectures of April 1907 where he said: “Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down…Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused”. — From Lecture at Columbia University (April 1907)
(cited in William Appleman William’s book, “The Tragedy of American Diplomacy”, p. 72).

Other economic policies

In 1913, the Underwood tariff lowered the tariff. The revenue thereby lost was replaced by a new federal income tax (authorized by the 16th Amendment, which had been sponsored by the Republicans). The “Seaman’s Act” of 1915 improved working conditions for merchant sailors. As response to the RMS Titanic disaster, it also required all ships to be retrofitted with lifeboats.

A series of programs were targeted at farmers. The “Smith Lever” act of 1914 created the modern system of agricultural extension agents sponsored by the state agricultural colleges. The agents taught new techniques to farmers. The 1916 “Federal Farm Loan Board” issued low-cost long-term mortgages to farmers.

Child labor was curtailed by the Keating-Owen act of 1916, but the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1918. Additional child labor bills would not be enacted until the 1930s.

The railroad brotherhoods threatened in summer 1916 to shut down the national transportation system. Wilson tried to bring labor and management together, but when management refused he had Congress pass the “Adamson Act” in September 1916, which avoided the strike by imposing an 8-hour work day in the industry (at the same pay as before). It helped Wilson gain union support for his reelection; the act was approved by the Supreme Court.

Please remember that this is only a small part of this President’s life. For more reading, visit your local library.





President #27

15 02 2008

William Howard Taft was our twenty-seventh President. Since I’m truly short on time, I’m simply going to reference/quote Wikipedia on his entry. There are many interesting facts about him, but I’m only going to post a few.

The following are selections directly copied from Wikipedia. I make no effort to claim them as mine, so therefore, no plagurism. Click on the word Wikipedia to go directly to the entry. (So Hah! Mrs. Wells, there’s my reference!)

President William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft (September 15, 1857March 8, 1930) was an American politician, the twenty-seventh President of the United States, the tenth Chief Justice of the United States, a leader of the progressive conservative wing of the Republican Party in the early 20th century, a pioneer in international arbitration and staunch advocate of world peace verging on pacifism, and scion of a leading political family, the Tafts, in Ohio.

Taft served as the Solicitor General of the United States, a federal judge, Governor-General of the Philippines, and Secretary of War before being nominated for President in the 1908 Republican National Convention with the backing of his predecessor and close friend Theodore Roosevelt.

His presidency was characterized by trust-busting, strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission, expanding the civil service, establishing a better postal system, and promoting world peace. Roosevelt broke with Taft in 1911, charging Taft was too reactionary. Taft and the conservatives were alarmed at Roosevelt’s attacks on the judiciary, and took control of the party machinery. Taft defeated Roosevelt for the Republican nomination in a bruising battle in 1912 that forced Roosevelt out of the GOP and left Taft’s people in charge for decades. William Howard Taft remains the only U.S. President to finish third in a bid for reelection to a second consecutive term. During World War I he helped set national labor policy that reduced strikes and generated union support for the national cause. In 1921, he became Chief Justice. As President and Chief Justice he helped make the federal courts, especially the Supreme Court, much more powerful in shaping national policy.

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In 1921, when Chief Justice Edward Douglass White died, President Warren G. Harding nominated Taft to take his place, thereby fulfilling Taft’s lifelong ambition to become Chief Justice of the United States. Very little opposition existed to the nomination, and the Senate approved him 60-4 in a secret session, but the roll call of the vote has never been made public.[12] He readily took up the position, serving until 1930. As such, he became the only President to serve as Chief Justice, and thus is also the only former President to swear in subsequent Presidents, giving the oath of office to both Calvin Coolidge (in 1925) and Herbert Hoover (in 1929). He remains the only person to have led both the Executive and Judicial branches of the United States government. He considered his time as Chief Justice to be the highest point of his career: he allegedly once remarked, “I don’t remember that I ever was President.”

Taft as Chief Justice Taft is seated in the middle, rightfully so as Chief Justice.

In 1922, Taft traveled to England to study the procedural structure of the English courts and learn how they disposed of such a large number of cases in such an expeditious manner. During the trip, King George V and Queen Mary received Taft and his wife as state visitors. With what he had learned in England, Taft advocated passage of the Judiciary Act of 1925 (often called the “Judges Bill”), which shifted the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction to be exercisable principally on review by writ of certiorari, thereby empowering the Supreme Court to give preference to cases of national importance and allowing the Court to work more efficiently. In addition to giving the Court more control over its docket, the new legislation (and the Judicial Conference that Taft organized) gave the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice general supervisory power over the scattered and disorganized federal courts, bringing the District of Columbia and the territories within the federal system, uniting the courts for the first time as an independent third branch of government (contrary to the British model) under the administrative supervision of the Chief Justice of the United States. Taft was also the first Justice to employ two full-time law clerks.

In 1929, Taft successfully argued for the construction of the Supreme Court Building, reasoning that the court needed to distance itself from Congress as a separate branch of government. Until then, the Court had heard cases in the old Senate Chamber of the Capitol; the justices had no chambers and their conferences were held in a room in the basement. Taft, however, did not live to see the building’s completion in 1935.

So, I hope you enjoyed today’s directly copied entry. To read more on Taft’s politics, personal life, and general information, go to the Wikipedia site, or go to your local library!





President #22 & 24

14 02 2008

A new surprise. You may not remember that we had one gentleman that served two terms as President – but not consecutively! That’s right, Mr. Stephen Grover Cleveland, President #22 & 24. Although he was a Democrat, many say that he could truly reach across the aisle, to just about all parties involved. Some of his facts include:

1. He greatly favored the Gold Standard, and believed that America should be able to back up any paper currency with gold.

2. He refused to oust any ‘hard-working Republicans’ just because of the old Spoils System (I think this is still used today…). For those of you who do not know about this, the Spoils System was a loosely termed action of firing government employees for their party affiliation. Cleveland believed that if you served America in your job well, then you should be able to work for the government, no matter who was in office.

3. Cleveland and his Secretary of the Navy, William C. Whitney, did a great job of reforming the Naval branch of the military, including those pesky contractors that were building our ships with cheaper material and charging a premium.

4. Cleveland also gained back approximately 81 million acres of government land that had been leased to the railroads, also by corrupt contracts, similar to the Naval contracts.

5. He is one of one a few Presidents to marry while in office, and the only one to have actually gotten married in the White House.

6. His wife, Frances, is the youngest First Lady on Record at age 21.

7. His VP – Thomas Hendricks, filled the VP office during Cleveland’s first term, but died only a few months after Cleveland took office.

8. His 2nd VP – Adlai Stevenson, served as VP during Cleveland’s second term, and lasted the entire 4 years.

9. The typewriter was invented during his second term.

10. In 1893, Cleveland was diagnosed with a form of mouth cancer – his doctors eventually operated to remove the small tumor.

President #22 & 24 - Grover Cleveland

So there you go. Some more useless facts about another of our Presidents.





President’s Day!

13 02 2008

Okay, we have another holiday upon us. Some people forget about it, especially with all the hoopla about Black History Month being the entire month of February. There’s a little holiday in there that a lot of people are starting to ignore. President’s Day.

In honor of the men (and their supportive wives), I’m going to present some useless, but fun facts about some of the great men (and women) that have lead this great country. In times of strife and in prosper, these great people deserve some recognition. Everyone knows about Washington and Lincoln, so I’ll be presenting some facts about some of our lesser known Presidents.

To start off, President #4. James Madison. In this time of candidates switching views, President Madison is their example. He was elected on one ‘platform’ (so to speak), and by the time his two terms ended, he had all but 180 degreed on almost every issue. For more information specifically on his politics, go look him up in Wikipedia. Not only was he one of our authors of the Federalist Papers, he is also considered the Father of the Constitution and the creator of the Bill of Rights.

President James Madison Our Fourth President of the United States. (okay, more like #18 if you include the Presidents of the Continental Congress, our first government, but we won’t go there today….)

On a more personal note, James Madison still holds the record for being our shortest President. At only 5’4″, even his wife, Dolley, towered over him. His face is the picture on the $5000 bill, and he is the only President to lose 2 Vice-Presidents to death during office. His first VP, George Clinton, served from 1809-1812 and died in office. His second VP, Elbridge Gerry, took oath in 1813, and less than a year later died. After all that, I have to wonder if he simply thought the office was cursed….

James’ wife, Dolley Payne Todd Madison, is largely credited with starting the protocols and services that the First Ladies perform while in office. James wasn’t exactly known for his socializing, and through his wife and her support, he was able to establish friendships to help shape this great country while it was still in its infantdom.

For more information, go to your local library. There are several tomes about James Madison, and many of our other Presidents as well. I think you would be surprised at how little we truly know about these great men.